Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Take a Break: Make Jewelry from Hardware

This “take a break” is the result of spending many hours helping to clean out the motorcycle shop of my friend who was killed when he fell asleep on his bike several weeks ago.  For Alan’s memorial-or Bon Voyage party as his wife is calling it- I thought those in attendance might appreciate a small piece of Alan’s shop (I’m calling it Alanware), so I’ve been making a variety of items that people can wear or use.

To get started, think of using items like hex nuts and wing nuts the way you might use beads. Bracelets, earrings, pendants, key chains, bookmarks and necklaces can easily be made by combining glass beads with various hardware items. For bracelets, stretch cord works just fine as well as “memory wire,” provided the nuts, washers, or whatever you are using are small enough. The Hex Nut Jewelry video is a good place to start.

Other projects to consider

• Hex nut bracelet/key chain can be made by any of the following ways
- Chain This pattern glues the hex beads together. The preferred glue appears to be E-6000.
- Rat Tail  This pattern links the hex nuts together with jump rings, a good option for those who don’t like glue.

• Hex Nut Earrings
- Type III Hex Nut Posts You can always glue a small bead in the hole, or consider trimming down the screw so the head fits in the hex.

Enough with the nuts and bolts. Moving on to washers.
Ribbon and washers make a lovely necklace or bracelet or a bookmark. 

• Decorate washers with any of the following techniques, so that your pendant, key chain, bookmark or whatever else looks fabulous.

Stamping on Washers: Does require a letter set. 

• DIY Metal Washers Jewelry: Video on making interesting necklaces with washers. 

• Bookmarks: These can easily be made by gluing a few beads on the washer, or decorating it with various paints, and then looping a ribbon through it. Make sure that the ribbon is long enough to go a page length.

Other hardware Projects

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ways to Save Money on Monthlies (Bills)

This may seem like an odd post for a blog dealing with chronic health, but the fact is many people with such issues, have money problems. This is a great topic for support groups to consider. Definitely bring in people who have a lot of experience with a particular approach to help address individual issues.  

STEP ONE: Determine how you spend your money each month. Keep an accurate accounting including: monthly bills (housing, utilities, car etc.); gasoline; food; snacks; entertainment; food, clothing; donations, medicine, medical care, vet bills etc.

STEP TWO: Eliminate unnecessary items, such as sodas, snack foods, lottery tickets etc. Find alternatives to things like magazine and newspaper subscriptions (these are often available on-line and at the public library), buying books (use the library instead), renting movies (many libraries now offer DVDs), gym membership (walk, ride a bike, engage in sports).

STEP THREE Check out ways to reduce specific bills:

• Cable: Using internet streaming can save a bundle on monthly cable TV bills and at home movie rentals. This is an excellent article that goes step by step in “Howto Cancel Cable and Save with Free Internet TV.  Chances are good you probably know people that have already done this, so ask them for help. Pulling the plug on cable could easily save $1,200 per year. Remember that your local library carries DVDs of popular movies and TV shows. One thing to be aware of. Many cable and phone companies offer “bundles.” Make sure that if you disconnect from your cable TV programming, it’s not going to raise your internet or other services through the roof.

• Phone: Many people are switching to cell service only, ditching their land lines.  In fact, eventually they will go the way of black and white TV. Before you make the switch, make sure you have good access with your cell phone. Talk to other people in your area who have tried this. For further information, read How to Ditch Your Landline .

Use free services like Skype, Face Time (it’s the Apple version of Skype), which allows you to talk face to face using your computer, tablet etc. You may be able to get away with a lower price cell service by taking advantage of some of the free services.

• Housing: Rent and mortgages can be the single biggest “monthly.” Consider the following options:
  1. -    Downsizing to a smaller home. Don’t dismiss this out of hand as sometimes a move allows you not only to save money in terms of rent/mortgage, but it can put you in walking distance of shopping, job etc. thereby saving money on gas. A smaller more energy efficient home can help to reduce fuel costs.
  2. -       A roommate.
  3. -     A reverse mortgage. If you're of the right age, short on cash, and sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) in home equity, reverse mortgages can be a sweet deal. The government-sponsored products allow seniors — those over the age of 62 — to tap the equity in their homes while still living in them. Essentially, your mortgage pays you, rather than the other way around, and you don't repay the loan until the sale of your house — either when you move or after your death. How toKnow If a Reverse Mortgage is Right For You. 
  4. -       Don’t buy more home that you need or can afford.
  5. -       Refinance your mortgage
  6. -       Make biweekly payments
  7. -       Use the Making Home Affordable program, which is a federal government to help home owners. 

• Food This can be a major bill, depending on the size of your household and food requirements. Many people with chronic conditions have specific food needs, which can be very expensive. Being a savvy shopper, joining a Coop or Buyers Club are essential for many that want to eat well but affordably. These are some tips to consider
  1. - Use Coupons (only clip/download the ones for products you normally use)
  2. -       Purchase store brand items
  3. -       Vintage Food Stores/Bins-This is friend of mine’s name for the “dented can” store or the section of the store where items are significantly reduced.
  4. -       Loyalty cards-Some stores offer significant savings if you use their cards. All that is required is filling out an application.
  5. -       Know prices for items you most frequently buy. Shop in stores where they are cheapest and buy in bulk when they are truly on sale-such as two for the price of one. Only purchase items you use and avoid impulse buying because of a sale.
  6. -       Join a food coop and work a shift to help reduce your bill
  7. -       The most expensive brands are at eye level on super market shelves, so look up and down for cheaper options.
  8. -       Grow your own veggies and herbs, even if it’s in pots or window sill containers.
  9. -       Avoid convenience food when possible. Not only are they more expensive, they are generally higher in calories, fats and other stuff that you don’t need anyway.
  10. -       Pack a lunch and healthy snacks for work. Avoid using vending machines or going out for lunch.
  11. -       Invest in a water bottle and don’t purchase bottled water. Not only are the plastic bottles bad for the environment and expensive, in general, the water coming out of your tap is of the same quality. If you do live in a place with poor water quality invest in a water filtration system. In some cases, a Britta type filter is sufficient.
  12. -       Freeze left overs and use at a later date.
  13. -       Shop after you’ve eaten, as it will reduce the risk of impulse buying
  14. -       Don’t purchase items like air fresheners and cleaning products, as they generally are pretty toxic. Instead, open a window, cut up a lemon. Most things can be cleaned with baking soda, vinegar, salt and even sugar. Learn more at Are YourGreen Cleaning Products and Skin lotions making you sicker? 

• Utilities: There are lots of ways to reduce your fuel, water and electric bill. The simplest way to reduce costs is by using less. Every state has some type of energy efficiency program that helps to reduce energy, thereby reducing costs. This can include: home weatherization (can be free depending on income), rebates on energy efficient products, loan programs for developing renewal energy options and much more. Check out what’s available in your state. 

• Car: Is that trip necessary? Ask yourself that every time you think about driving somewhere. Another question to ask is whether you can walk or bike (ass not gas). The more car trips you eliminate, the more money you save. At $4 a gallon, you can save a lot of money.

• Medications: Before the prescription is written, discuss your financial situation with your medical provider. Is it essential that you take this medication? Are their generic or over the counter options? Can they provide samples? Do they know if there is a patient assistance program? Many pharmaceutical companies have programs that provide deep discounts or even free for people in need. If the provider doesn’t know, check the company’s website or Check out the following resources;
-       Prescription Assistance Program
-       Free Medicine Program
-       Needy Meds
-       Together Rx Access
-       Rx Assist
-       Tricare Senior Pharmacy For uniformed services beneficiaries 65 years of age or older.

Other things to consider:
  • - o Look into higher dose pills: Since a 40 mg dose sells for almost the same as an 80 mg pill, ask your pharmacist and medical provider if it’s possible to pill split, so that you get the correct lower dose, but at a deep saving. While your medical provider has to write the prescription, the pharmacist may have a better handle on whether the pill is good for splitting. Be sure to ask the pharmacist for tips on how to correctly pill split. Consumer Reports PillSplitting 
  • -       Shop around. Many states, as well as condition specific organizations (e.g. American Cancer Society) have set up websites that provide cost comparisons for specific drugs.

-       More Tips

Please post any tips you have on saving money on monthly bills.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Take a Break: Have Fun with Pool Noodles

It’s summer and the pool noodles abound-at home, the beach, swimming pool etc. Here are some fun ways to enjoy them, including ideas for recycling those that are wrecked and stuck in the back of the garage.  

Make a garland for outdoor parties: Cut them into ½ thick pieces (use the noodles that have ridges in them) and string them together with a needle and thread. Watch a video  You can also put a piece of wire through one edge and wire it to a strand of lights. 

Make stamps out of them: Again using the ridged noodle, cut ½ inch pieces, dab on the paint and stamp.

• Napkin rings: Perfect for pool side dinning. Slice into ½ pieces, pull the napkin through the hole and viola!

• Flower Bouquet: This would be a fun surprise for someone in the hospital. Use a ridged pool noodle. Cut into ½ inch sections. Stick a green pipe cleaner (think the correct name is craft sticks) in one end. Put a bunch together in a vase.

 Large flowers: Use two different circular noodles. Slice in ½ inch slices. Glue five in a circle (they’ll look like daisy petals) and add a contrasting color in the middle. 

Make a wreath-Just tape the ends together, or connect with a wooden dowel,  and start decorating. Like Styrofoam, you can stick pins in them.

Make an Epee (sword) and practice your fencing skills 

Make a Bendee: Stick a wire (unbend a clothes hanger) and bend the noodle into any shape you want. Make a giant heart. Use several to make a shamrock. With a number of them, you can make giant flowers.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Take Sleep Disorders Seriously: They can be Lethal to Your Health

This past week, the dangers of sleep disorders was brought home to me when a friend was killed when he fell asleep while riding his motorcycle. As his wife noted, I know that he had had only about 3-4 hours of sleep the 2 nights before, as he struggled with insomnia.... People in a car behind him saw him repeatedly shake his head for some distance before the crash, as if to try to stay awake.

This could have been my own fate last September. We were returning home from Paris and I had been up for over 24 hours. I didn’t think it was such a good idea to drive home (almost three hours) from the airport at 11:30 at night, but my husband assured me we would be fine. Less than two miles from home, I fell asleep behind the wheel. I learned a very important lesson-don’t drive when you are dealing with jet lag and/or sleep deprivation, regardless of what anyone tells you.

Among the many things my friend Alan was known for was his ability to teach. So with his spirit in mind, sadly here’s a last lesson from him, so please pay attention.

More than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. Many people with chronic conditions, because of the diagnosis itself or medication, have sleep problems. Age can be a factor, as well as menopause, being pregnant, worry, stress, even working night shifts and/or having a spouse/partner with sleep problems.

While there are many cartoons and jokes made about people with sleeping issues, this is no laughing matter as good restorative sleep is essential to health and well being. Yes, most of us will have the occasional sleepless night because of stress, hot weather, feeling sick etc. Yet, too many nights of not sleeping can lead to all sorts of problems.

As was the case with my friend, many people struggle with sleep for so long, that being sleep deprived becomes the norm for them.

America seems to pride itself on a lack of need for sleep and the idea of a nap, going to bed early, getting the required amount of sleep we need and so forth is often seen as a sign of weakness. Not only have individuals normalized their own sleep deprivation issues, so has our culture.

• Types of sleep Disorders: There are four primary disorders:
- Insomnia: The most common type of sleep disorder, it is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or returning to sleep after being awaken; waking up frequently; sleep is not refreshing; and sleepiness and low energy are common during the day. Insomnia is often a symptom of something wrong-excess stress, anxiety, depression, poor diet, lack of exercise, medications being taken or an underlying health problem. Learn more at Can’t sleep? Understanding Insomniaand its symptoms. 

- Sleep Apnea: Due to the blockage of the upper airways, breathing temporarily stops during sleep leading to a number of awakenings each hour. Symptoms include loud, chronic snoring; frequent pauses in breathing during sleep; gasping, snorting or choking during sleep; not feeling rested no matter how much you sleep at night or how many naps you take; or waking with shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, nasal congestion or dry throat. Learn more about Sleep Apnea it’s symptoms, causes, cures and treatment options. 

- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): Strong urge to move legs or arms, which is worse at night or after resting. These symptoms are relieved when you move, stretch or massage your legs. Learn more about the symptoms, treatment and self help for RLS

- Narcolepsy: Excessive, uncontrollable daytime sleepiness. Learn more about Narcolepsy itssymptoms and treatment. 

Other types of sleep problems include jet lag, shift work, a partner that has sleep problems or having a delayed sleep phase. The latter includes those people who refer to themselves as “night owls”-they prefer to go to bed in the wee hours of the morning and sleep until noon. That’s great if your schedule allows you to do that, but often that creates problems for those with a 9-5 job.

• Do you, or someone you sleep with, have a sleeping problem? Just by reading the section above, you’ll have a good idea if some of these issues are relevant to you. There is an easy assessment tool provided by St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta that can provide you with more information.

 • What should I do? If you are experiencing sleep issues, do not operate machinery, drive or do other tasks that could cause problems for yourself or others should you suddenly fall asleep. Check out Sleep Disorders and SleepingProblems for tips on how to keep a sleep diary and ways to improve your sleep patterns.  Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

- Your main sleep problem is daytime sleepiness and self-help hasn’t improved your

- You or your bed partner gasps, chokes, or stops breathing during sleep.

- You sometimes fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while talking, walking, or eating.

• Treatments: There are a variety of ways to improve sleep, such as keeping a regular sleep schedule and making sure you stick to it; creating a bedroom that is conducive to sleep; and helping to prepare your self for a good night’s rest, by doing things like turning off electronic devices, not eating for two hours before retiring, avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime and avoiding nicotine. For some people these strategies are not sufficient as there may be an underlying medical condition. Check out Not Sleeping Well?There May be a Medical Cause 

Some Final Thoughts:
Naps-There is no shame in a nap. It turns out they are very healthy for most people. They can improve your mood, increase creativity and get you through the day in a lot more healthy way. In fact, research shows that nappers tend to have less heart disease and live longer than those who don’t.

Regardless of how much you sleep at night, we are naturally sleepy in the early afternoon. This is why some countries have Siestas, and today leading corporations are building spots where employees can actually take a nap. Learn more about napping

Don’t Drive Sleepy! Here are the top 10 things to do to avoid falling asleep at the wheel, from the AAA Foundation and the University of Iowa:
-Stop driving if you feel sleepy. Stop and drink a caffeinated beverage.

-Since it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream and take effect, use that time to take a nap.

-Get plenty of sleep the night before taking a long trip — at least six hours, though more is better.

-Don't plan to work all day and then drive all night.

- Drive at times when you are normally awake, and stay overnight in a hotel or motel rather than driving straight through.

-Avoid driving at so-called sleepy times of day. Take a midafternoon break for a short nap and find a place to sleep between midnight and dawn. If you can't nap, at least stop your drive and rest for awhile.

- Avoid carbohydrate-laden foods that can make you sleepy, in favor of protein-laden foods.

-Avoid allergy and cold or flu medications containing Diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl, which can contribute to drowsiness. And don't take prescribed sleep aids, such as Ambien, until you are finished driving for the day.

- On long trips, keep an awake passenger in the front seat. Increasing the volume on the car stereo is not a substitute for somebody you can talk to.

- Take a break every two hours or every 100-120 miles, even if you don't need a pit stop or gas. Get out of the car, take some deep breaths and do some stretching exercises, especially neck and shoulders, to relieve cramping and stress. And try to set a limit of 300-400 miles of driving per day.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Take a Break: Enjoy Peaches/Edible Sand

Today is National Peach Ice Cream Day. Can’t say that this is my favorite flavor, but I do enjoy peaches. Just as we celebrated blueberries last week, this week "take a break" with peaches.

Eat a peach: While nothing beats a fresh fully ripen peach, frozen and even canned can be nutritious. Surprise, canned peaches, in a recent study,  were found to be just as nutritious as fresh ones, and the biggest surprise of all-researchers found almost four times more vitamin C  in canned than fresh. Plus, canned had similar levels of vitamin E and a lot more folate than fresh. Be sure to buy peaches packed in their own juice and not in syrup.

Learn fun and interesting facts about peaches: The Romans called the peaches “Persian Apples” naming them after the country that introduced peaches to the West. Spaniards brought peaches to South America and the French introduced them to Louisiana. The English took them to their Jamestown and Massachusetts colonies. Columbus brought peach trees to America on his second and third voyages. China is the largest world producer of peaches, with Italy second. FillYour Plate 

Make something with peaches: There are lots of yummy dishes with peaches. They can be used in savory dishes as well as desserts. Some recipes to try:
• Peach Salad 

Make a Peach Pit Ring: As a kid we’d sand peach pitches by rubbing them against the sidewalk. Today, thanks to Drimmel tools, sandpaper and files it’s a lot easier. Check out the video on making peach pit jewelry. 

Read James and the Giant Peach or watch the movie of the same name.  The movie is available for free on-line.

Not a peach fan, what about making a Beach Bucket Cake with Edible “Sand?”  I haven’t tried this recipe, but I thought it looked like fun. Tiny pails would be perfect for a cupcake